Disintegration wants to give you everything in one neat and tidy package: It’s a hybrid of a first-person shooter and a real-time strategy game; it’s got a single-player campaign and a replayable multiplayer experience with three modes; and it’s got an original sci-fi IP from the co-creator of one of the most iconic sci-fi stories ever told in the gaming world and beyond. And yet, despite all of that, the game’s rather empty and quiet “home base” settings and lack of an engaging story make it easier to put the controller down rather than keep pressing play.
What the game sets out to do, for the most part, it does well: The story exists in a post-apocalyptic world in which human brains (and, philosophically speaking, minds, souls, and personalities) can be “integrated” into fully mechanical bodies with enhanced abilities. Disintegration takes place quite a few years after that technology has become commonplace, to the point that factions have emerged and a violent conflict has broken out. Players will lead a crew of Outlaws as the integrated and once-famous pilot Romer Shoal, fighting to “Reboot Humanity” against the villainous entity known as Black Shuck and the domineering Rayonne forces bent on eliminating human society. Unfortunately, that’s about as deep as the story gets, with the exception of the few cutscenes dedicated to the overall plot or limited character development for Romer and his crew.
The most interesting wrinkle in the game is that your player character heads into the fray not on foot, and not wielding a melee weapon or behind the scope of a sniper rifle, but by piloting a grav cycle. This armed and armored hovering vehicle is your FPS portion of the game in that you can deal damage directly to enemies and targets. But it also acts as a command center for AI troops on the ground — your named and customizable teammates — whom you’ll be able to control through positioning, “Hold” or “Attack” commands, and unique abilities triggered by simple one-button prompts after cooldowns; that’s your RTS portion of the game.
Being mindful of both the FPS and RTS approaches to gameplay takes a little getting used to if you’re not already versed in similar games — I recommend the tutorial to get a handle on the basics — but it is absolutely the best aspect of Disintegration. You can tweak the difficulty settings to be more or less “hands on” when it comes to the RTS options during the campaign, but you won’t have that luxury in multiplayer mode. However, sometimes the single-player campaign feels like extensive training for the multiplayer capabilities which wil be available at launch — including zone control, point-based, and capture/defend the flag modes, which were super-fun to play around with in the beta — which is a bummer considering that I really wanted to have a compelling story and characters that grabbed hold of me to get me fully invested. That, plus quality-of-life issues like massive home bases with too little to interact with (compounded by Romer’s ridiculously casual jogging speed and no run/spring option), prevented me from going all-in on the experience.
Disintegration hails from Marcus Lehto‘s V1 Interactive, a team of about 30, including AAA title veterans and up-and-comers alike. What this team has put together is rather remarkable — it’s a fun, gorgeous game with a unique conceit, bolstered by rock-solid mechanics and controls, and buoyed by an immersive sound design, a nice variety of level layouts, and character/mech/vehicle designs that are so good I want them as statues on my display case — it’s just a shame that the story and the world around the characters feels under-baked. I hate to namedrop Anthem here, but Disintegration suffers from similar setbacks — too-large too-empty settings with too little lore and life, a solid concept and execution without an emotional core to anchor it, and a focus on multiplayer — albeit from a much smaller studio and, presumably, budget. It’s a fun ride for a while, but not an absolutely necessary one.
Disintegration is coming to digital storefronts for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam on June 16, 2020. At the very least, it should be on your radar as a unique 2020 title worth checking out.
Dave Trumbore is Collider’s Senior Editor overseeing Games, Animation, and all those weird Saturday-morning cartoons no one else remembers. Test his trivia IQ on Twitter @DrClawMD